Fauci Met With Wuhan-Affiliated Researcher In Early Days Of Pandemic, Emails Show

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Dylan Housman Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent
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Dr. Anthony Fauci met with an influential research scientist who worked directly with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) during the early days of the pandemic, newly-unearthed emails show.

Then-NIAID Director Fauci’s personal schedule included a meeting with Dr. Ralph Baric, a University of North Carolina epidemiologist, on February 11, 2020, watchdog group U.S. Right To Know learned (USRTK) through public records requests. Emails containing Slack messages give a window into the discussions between Fauci and Baric, which seemingly centered around gain-of-function (GoF) research taking place at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Email notifications from a Slack chat obtained by USRTK reveals a conversation between two colleagues of Baric, including University of Maryland professor Matt Frieman on Feb. 18, one week after the scheduled meeting between Baric and Fauci.

“I talked to Ralph for a long time last night, [h]e sounds beat,” Frieman wrote to University of Texas Medical Branch Assistant Professor Vineet Menachery, according to the emails obtained by USRTK. “He said he sat in Fauci’s office talking about the outbreak and chimeras … I joked about his link to WIV, he wasn’t very amused.”

“Chimeras” refers to a hybrid of two or more viruses genetically engineered into one. (RELATED: Dr. Fauci Admits COVID Shots Didn’t Have A Chance Of Controlling The Pandemic)

Baric is a high-profile figure in the world of GoF coronavirus research. A 2015 article unearthed by USRTK, written by Frieman, refers to him as “the big cheese” of coronaviruses. Baric has conducted a number of studies on viruses with the backing of NIAID grants alongside the WIV, USRTK reported.

The Slack conversation also reveals that Dr. Shi Zhengli, China’s infamous “batwoman” scientist that worked at the WIV alongside EcoHealth Alliance, an American government-funded non-profit, was at risk of being arrested. Frieman tells Menachery that Shi was at risk of being arrested by Chinese authorities due to a paper she had recently published not being government-approved, USRTK reported.

Fauci’s meeting with Baric is notable, as it gives further insight into Fauci’s level of concern about GoF research happening at the WIV during the early days of the pandemic. Other emails obtained via government records requests have shown that Fauci was discussing the possibility of a lab leak of COVID-19 with a number of scientists in early 2020, and raised questions about what kind of research his agency had been funding at the lab.